Chased by police

Barby Lupone says he was deported into hell

Less than a month ago, a frail and exhausted Elmer Valladares – better known in Toronto by his drag name, Barby Lupone – says he was brutally assaulted, “raped and beaten” by three El Salvadoran police officers.

Over the telephone, Valladares says the authorities saw him walking alone after a visit to a lesbian friend’s home.

“What are you doing out at this time, faggot!” they yelled. “We don’t want a faggot here! He has AIDS!”

They chased after Valladares and hauled him into the station for

interrogation. At the end, Valladares says he was told: “We’ll give you five seconds to run.”

Valladares says he no longer goes outdoors.

He was deported back to El Salvador a year ago after nine years in Canada.

Being openly gay in Latin American countries is risky. Those who chose to live open lives are subject to physical and verbal abuse, according to Amy Lind, who teaches sociology and Latin American studies at Brown University in Rhode Island. She’s prepared a report on gay rights in Latin America.

“I want to show people what’s happening here with gays. They hate them. They kill them,” says Valladares. In the past year alone, he says 10 gays were killed in the capital city.

Valladares says support is almost impossible to find.

Valladares says he’s tried to get help from his family. His brother threatened him with a machete. Valladares’s brother would prefer to see him dead rather than being a “maricon” (gay).

Back in Toronto, Valladares has a community of supporters willing to help.

“Back home, they don’t accept people like us. If the leading spokesperson for gay rights in El Salvador [who’s received death threats] cannot be protected by the government, who can be?” asks Margarita Navarro, one of Valladares’s closest friends in Toronto (and a lesbian from El Salvador).

“He is like my son. He was my first friend in the community and we lived together,” says Navarro.

Before Valladares was sent back to El Salvador on Feb 9,1999, Navarro tried to save him from deportation. He was arrested two days earlier while walking home from El Convento Rico.

The owner of the Red Spot owner offered to put up $10,000 in sponsorship and provide a job. But immigration offices were

closed when a group arrived to appeal. Worse, says Navarro, the fax machine was turned off.

Valladares says he felt like he had no choice but to accept deportation. He’d been here (illegally) for nine years, had no papers and hadn’t taken the time to try to change his status.

He contributed to Toronto’s gay community. He helped found the Barby awards, to recognize the talent and work of drag queens: The current edition was held on Mar 19 at El Convento Rico.


Proceeds went to the Save Barby Fund. Deposits can be made at the TD bank on the corner of Church and Wellesley, under the account name “Barby’s Foundation,” account number 769.

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Activism, Power, Toronto

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